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Thinking Tall: Tin Panel Installation on Vertical Surfaces

Though our namesake implies that tin panels are for the ceiling, they can do so much more. Frequently seen on walls, backsplashes, on furniture, and used in artwork, tin tiles are masters of versatility.  

Take a look with us at how tin panels can be applied to various vertical surfaces. 

 Person installing tin panels on a backsplash in a kitchen.

What Type of Tin Panels Can Go on the Wall? 

At American Tin Ceilings, we have three types of tin panels: drop-in, nail-up, and Snap Lock. While each of these can be installed on the ceiling, not all can be used on the wall.  

Drop-in tin tiles require a grid on which the panels sit. Since gravity is a key factor in making the drop-in set up work, this is not a system that will work for vertical surfaces.  

Nail-up tin tiles are the original tin panel and can be used for both the ceiling and the wall. They require a plywood substrate or furring strips to be installed.  

Snap-Lock tin panels have an interlocking edge that makes for a very secure installation. They are used on the ceiling but we don’t recommend them for walls. 

 Person nailing tin panel to a wall with nail gun.

Installing Backsplash & Wall Tin Panels 

It only takes a few hours to install a full tin backsplash. It is a fully DIY-able undertaking—no matter how much experience you have. Start by gathering all the tools you’ll need. 

Tape measure or T-square 
Construction-grade adhesive 
Acrylic latex caulk (like painters use) 
Tin snips 
Drill 
Saw 
Marker 

Begin by measuring 24 inches from your starting point and draw a level line. This helps you see the exact placement of your first panel and ensures it is square. Next apply adhesive to the interior of the back side of the tin panel.  

Place the panel on the wall following the markings you made previously. Apply pressure to the bottom of the tile and work your way up to the top. Ensure that the entire panel comes into contact with the wall.  

The next panel will require you to overlap the edges (nail-up) as you install it. Work from one end to the other and from top to bottom.  

It is very likely that you will have to cut the panels when you get to the other side of the backsplash. Because of this, you might want to dry fit the tin panels so you can determine where you want your starting point to be. Generally, you’ll want to have the cut edges where they will be less noticeable.  

 

White tin tile installed on the front of a bar in a restaurant.

Backsplash Tip 

Most backsplashes look best with a smaller tin tile pattern. Every tin panel is 24” x 24” but patterns vary from 6” to 48”. Because of the limited space on a backsplash, larger patterns tend to be cut off. Smaller patterns can be shown fully without the cuts being so noticeable.  

 Gray tin tiles on the wall behind a fireplace with black mantel.

Cutting Around Cabinets  

You might run into areas where you can’t install a full tin panel and this requires you to cut it so the tile can lay flat and snug. Start by measuring from the edge of the countertop or the previous tin tile to where it meets the cabinet.  

Lay your tin tile flat and recreate the measurements on the tin, drawing lines where the cabinet (or other interruption) would be.  

Use tin snips to cut on the lines you’ve drawn. Then install the panel as above.  

 Tin tiles on the upper wall behind a white couch in a living room.

Cutting Around Outlets & Switches 

Vertical surfaces inevitably have outlets and switches to work around. That means cutting the tin panel.  

It often happens that you need to make a cut in the center of a tin panel. First remove the outlet or switch cover. Then measure from the edge of the previous installed tile to the outlet opening. Measure for both sides and the top and bottom of the outlet.  

Transfer these measurements to the tin tile, essentially creating an outline of the outlet on the tin. Drill a hole in the center of the piece to be removed to create an insertion point for your tin snips. Cut out the box you’ve outlined then proceed to install the tin panel as usual. 

 Tin panels in silver installed over an entire wall in a modern industrial space.

Adding Trim 

 While ceiling tile doesn’t necessarily need any trim, walls make edges much more visible, especially if you're installation doesn’t butt up against an adjoining wall. Adding a simple trim is a great way to finish off those edges.  

A simple j-channel edge trim in a coordinating color slides right over the raw edge. Use inside corner trim to address raw edges in corners where two walls meet at an inside corner. Most trims are best installed on the tin panel before adhering it to the wall.  

 Chrome tin tile on a restaurant wall with wood table in the foreground.

Using Acoustic Tin Panels 

In large rooms that need echo control, like a restaurant dining room, or in home theater or music room, acoustic tin tiles can be a great way to achieve sound control without deviating from the style.  

Using acoustic tin tiles on the wall requires furring strips at least 2” deep because there must be room for the acoustical pad to be installed behind the perforated tin panel.  

 

Tin panels on vertical surfaces is an exciting design option that you should add to your arsenal. Whether it’s a backsplash or feature wall, tin tile will take the design to new heights.  

 

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